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Maine Mariners head to playoffs seeking elusive series victory

Apr. 17—Alex Kile has been skating in a Maine Mariners sweater since the franchise returned to Portland in 2018. The longest tenured member of the team has spent parts of the last five seasons with the Mariners.

During that time, the Mariners have yet to win an ECHL Kelly Cup playoff series. Maine came close each of the last two seasons but fell short in the opening round of the playoffs.

"It would mean a lot to me, for sure. We have the playoff experience now," said Kile, who last week was named to the all-ECHL first team after setting team scoring records with 37 goals and 46 assists for 83 points. "We have a core group of guys that have been here for a while, so we need to start winning some games and stop talking about it. Let our actions take over."

The Mariners earned the fourth seed in the North division and will take on the top-seeded Adirondack Thunder in the first round. The first two games of the best-of-seven series will be in Glens Falls, New York, at 7 p.m.Friday and 5 p.m. Sunday. The series shifts to Cross Insurance Arena for Game 3 on April 26 at 7 p.m. Game 4 is set for April 27 at 6 p.m., and Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for April 28 at 3 p.m.

Maine (32-32-8-0) and Adirondack (43-18-7-4) met 14 times in the regular season, with the Thunder winning eight of the games. The teams completed the regular season with four consecutive games against each other. Adirondack won the first three and led 3-1 in the third period of Sunday's regular-season finale before the Mariners rallied to tie the game, then won it on Kile's goal at 5:31 of overtime. After five straight losses, Maine needed the victory to clinch a playoff spot.

"It was one of the more resilient efforts I've seen. We very easily could've packed up shop and said see you later, it's summer. But we didn't. That's what excites me about this group," Maine Coach Terrence Wallin said after Wednesday morning's practice at Troubh Ice Arena. "We could've taken the easy way out, but we didn't. I'm excited to see that hunger we had late in that third period and overtime throughout a seven-game stretch."

It's that five-game losing streak that sticks with Kile. The little things that happened in those games can't happen in a seven-game series against the Thunder, he said.

"We've got to clean up our turnovers. I feel like the past month, we've been giving up too many goals. We know we can score. We've always been able to do that. Come playoff time, we've got to keep the puck out of (our own) net," Kile said.

Being smart with the puck and defending hard through the middle of the ice are points of emphasis as the Mariners prepare for the series, Wallin said. Paying attention to the little details is also key.

"We've had some really good games against these guys. We've had some success against them," Wallin said. "Now it's kind of piecing it all together and tightening everything up so it's a good seven-game series for us."